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Avengers Infinity War: Thanos — The Infinity Gauntlet

Avengers: Infinity War arrives in U.S. theaters this week, and it is safe to say that if you have been following Marvel’s movies for the last decade or so, then it all adds up to this!

With interest in the Avengers and their arch-villain Thanos at an all-time fever pitch, this seemed a good time to reprint a suitably-updated version of my review of The Infinity Gauntlet, first published as Longbox Graveyard #53!

Like many of the geeks reading this blog I fairly came out of my seat when I saw Thanos in the Avengers end credits. He’s one of my favorite Marvel bad guys (celebrated in a recent Panel Gallery) and the backbone of fondly-remembered Captain Marvel and Warlock runs that were among the first books I reviewed here at Longbox Graveyard.

For the last several years, Thanos has been teased in a host of Marvel movies, and with Infinity War it seems we will finally get Thanos himself front-and-center, taking on the Avengers and seemingly every other hero in the Marvel Universe. Now, Thanos is a tough dude, but even he couldn’t take on those kinds of numbers by himself. Fortunately for those of us who love bad guy, Thanos isn’t alone … it looks like he has the Infinity Gauntlet. And if that is the case, then the odds are actually on Thanos’ side!

Fan speculation about the Infinity Gauntlet began even before Avengers debuted. Sharp-eyed viewers spotted the Gauntlet in Odin’s treasure room during 2011’s Thor, and Marvel took an Infinity Gauntlet prop on the road with them to various cons and trade shows.

Put Thanos, the Avengers, and the Infinity Gauntlet together, and it’s small wonder the Infinity Gauntlet graphic novel was “flying off the shelves” as long ago as 2012 when I bought a copy at the cosmically awesome House of Secrets comic shop in Burbank, California. It appears a least a few fans of Marvel’s billion-dollar franchise were eager to get ahead of the curve and soak up all the Thanos and Infinity Gauntlet lore that they could.

I recommend the terrific “Thanos For Beginners” primer that Mars Will Send No More put together if you want to know everything about this classic Avengers villain, but for now it’s enough to note that Thanos is a Death God from Titan, a superpowered alien obsessed with Death personified in female form, whom he courts as a lover. Unfortunately for Thanos (and everyone else), Death doesn’t much care for Thanos, driving the Titan to greater and still greater acts of murder as he tries to win her favor.


Back in those Captain Marvel and Warlock runs, Thanos threatened to destroy our solar system, leaning heavily on the Cosmic Cube (or “Tesseract,” as they call it in the movies). But for the Infinity Gauntlet limited series, Thanos took his game to the next level, using the Gauntlet to annihilate half the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. (For starters).

How did Thanos come by such awesome power?

Following one of his many resurrections, Thanos collected the “Infinity Gems,” cosmic MacGuffins affording all sorts of nifty magic powers. Binding them together in a gauntlet, Thanos became a god with power over time, space, and dimension — kind of like Sauron, Darth Vader, and Dick Cheney all rolled into one.

With that kind of power in Thanos’ grasp, the only solution was to create a big, sprawling mini-series, authored by Jim Starlin, and illustrated (for awhile, at least), by George Perez, who has made a career out of drawing these every-superhero-in-the-universe team-up books. The six issue series uses the entire universe as the setting for the ultimate battle between good and evil.

It’s not just the Marvel heroes that get into the act — Starlin puts out a casting call for every cosmic god in the Marvel Universe, too. Odin and the Sky Fathers are stuck in Asgard, thanks to a shattered Rainbow Bridge, but more space gods than you can shake a stick at respond to the call, including Galactus, Eternity, a couple Celestials, and less well-known gods like the Living Tribunal.

It’s this very scope of the book that most undermines the drama. When half the Marvel Universe is wiped out in your first issue, it’s not a matter of “if” — but “when” and “how” — the carnage will be undone. It’s fun, in a disaster-movie sort of way, to watch California slide into the ocean and see Manhattan in ruins — but because we know it must all be set right somehow, it’s hard to take the story seriously.

(Though I will admit to some retroactive cathartic glee in seeing Trump Tower among the wreckage)

What we really have here is an apocalyptic wrapper for a bigass superhero beat down, and in this Infinity Gauntlet delivers. The defense of creation is led by Adam Warlock, who rounds up the requisite Avengers and other Marvel heroes to keep Thanos distracted by beating on his head. Warlock maneuvers to checkmate his old foe by playing on Thanos’ weaknesses, such as the hubris that leads the Titan to create a pretty damn groovy outer space floating palace of death.


But even after awarding her with the next cover feature of Tomb & Garden Magazine, Death still won’t give Thanos the time of day. Finally getting wise to Death’s ways, Thanos throws her under the bus for a woman of his own creation — Terraxia The Terrible — who looks like Oprah Winfry cosplaying Thanos.

Thanos and Oprah

Infinity Gauntlet might span all of time and space, but when the chips are down, it’s still about comic book characters throwing haymakers at each other. And that’s fine with me. It’s genre-appropriate — and even kind of comforting — to debate the nature of good and evil with a smack in the mouth.

It’s not all fist city. Even with such a vast cast of characters beating each other up, Starlin finds time for some nice spotlight scenes, such as a little Hulk/Wolverine bromance over being the toughest guys in the room.

(With the X-Men still beyond the grasp of Marvel Studios, the above scene is on hold, pending completion of the Disney/Fox deal!)

So Infinity Gauntlet really is quite a traditional comic book event, with a universe-devouring threat, and a bunch of heroes solving things with their fists. Kind of like Secret Wars, without all the angst and cross-overs. It does get a little silly at times, but all is redeemed by a solid ending, which sees Thanos defeated in clever fashion (“spolier,” I guess), and the ol’ re-set button punched in a way that I didn’t see coming. I would have preferred that Jim Starlin both draw and write the book (or that George Perez had done the whole series, rather than yield to Ron Lim half way through), but for the most part I’m satisfied with Infinity Gauntlet, for its high stakes action and an overload of Thanos triumphant!

Of course there would be more “Infinity” series to follow, before the property extended into cash grabs and parodies, first as the Infinity Gems sought to bring my beloved Rune and the Ultraverse into the Marvel Universe, and then later as they became fodder for the Pet Avengers.

Sigh.

When I get an Infinity Gauntlet of my own, I’ll wish four decades worth of Marvel comic book continuity into the cornfield.

In the meantime, I’ll wish for Thanos to be handled as well in the next Avengers movie as Loki was handled in the first! Enjoy the show!

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About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published once a month or so at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on April 25, 2018, in Best Of Longbox Graveyard and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Great update to a classic Longbox Graveyard post, Paul! It’s hard to believe six years have passed since we were pumping our blog stats with Thanos posts after the first Avengers movie. “Tomb & Garden” still cracks me up–thanks for the laugh, and I bet you could market that magazine to goths if you’re looking for another income stream.

    I want to join you in scoffing at Pet Avengers, but Zabu and Red Wing look so dang awesome on your sample page! The world may not be ready for an “Age of Reptiles” style graphic novel about smilodons, but I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

    Curious about Starlin’s reaction to all this Thanos buzz, I found this fun interview with him published just this morning:

    https://www.newsarama.com/39642-jim-starlin-looks-back-on-avengers-infinity-wars-origins-in-the-infinity-gauntlet.html

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    • Thanks for the link, Mars, excellent interview, and full of all sorts of tidbits I had taken for granted (like the story that the name, Thanos, isn’t misspelled after all).

      Six years, man … you are right. And six years from now I’ll probably be doing it all over again. I recently re-wrote the very first article I published here (back in 2011). It will be republished shortly, in substantially unchanged form. Mostly I just refreshed links and changed tense here and there. But even seven years ago, my world was a different place. My boys were still boys (they’ve both kinda-sorta left home now), and the whole Longbox Graveyard project was still ahead of me. All the books I’ve sold and organized, all the awesome people I’ve met (and among the very earliest, kind words from a certain Mars Will Send No More). It’s been a ride. And it is increasingly evident there will be comic book movies long after I am gone!

      Not sure how I feel about that … on some level, I hold to the irrational feeling this is all some private, geekly passion play just for me. Thanos on a movie screen is still mind-blowing for me. Couldn’t imagine it when I was twelve, can’t much better imagine it today. Yet here we are.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the Jim Starlin mythos! Always worth re-reading, even if the new movie is very very loosely based off the classic Gauntlet story…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is fair to say that without Starlin I likely would not have stuck with comics … but I always regarded his work as my private, tween-age obsession. That a worldwide movie audience is caught up in this still blows my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I forgot all about Terraxia. You had me rolling on the floor with laughter. Oprah cosplaying Thanos. Hilarious!

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  4. It is more than a bit odd, to me at least, that Marvel Studios has spent nearly a decade, and several different movies, building up to an incredibly gigantic battle between the Avengers and Thanos in the upcoming Infinity War movie, when in the actual comic books whenever Thanos showed up the Avengers typically ended up playing second fiddle to either Captain Mar-Vell or Adam Warlock.

    This became especially egregious in the early 1990s in the Infinity Gauntlet / War / Crusade trilogy where Jim Starlin treated the Avengers (and pretty much every other superhero) as clueless cannon fodder that Adam Warlock used to distract Thanos, Magus and/or the Goddess while he carried out his latest especially clever master plan that only he was smart enough to come up with, because everyone else in any Starlin-written series from that decade is depicted as a moron. Okay, this wasn’t quite as pronounced here in this first miniseries, Infinity Gauntlet, but in both War and Crusade it was incredibly blatant.

    In my opinion the best Adam Warlock and Thanos stories by Starlin are the ones where they are off in their own corner of the Marvel universe, and the events are unconnected to any other series. I really think that Starlin just wants to be left in peace to write Warlock and Thanos. Unfortunately commercial considerations have often required him to shoehorn in the Avengers, FF, X-Men, etc, and each time that happens he seems terribly unenthusiastic about having to use those characters.

    Like

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